The One Show: former ‘Apprentice’ focuses on working mothers
Authors: Stephen Bevan
05 May 2011
If you are a fan of The Apprentice you probably remember Katie Hopkins from a couple of series ago. She didn’t quite conform to the ‘pushy squirt’ template of the other competitors although, among other things, she raised eyebrows when she withdrew from the show at a very late stage citing childcare concerns. Since the show she has returned to her career in consultancy and has taken to airing her sometimes challenging views in national newspapers and on other TV shows like Question Time.
This week The One Show asked Katie to make a short film drawing on a newspaper article she wrote which asked whether extending maternity rights in the workplace would mean that more employers would think twice about employing women. She also questioned whether long periods of maternity leave are good for mums or, indeed, their kids: ‘The thought of taking a long maternity leave, becoming a bloated, brainless version of your former self and spending endless days puréeing carrots is beyond me.’
As part of her film Katie interviewed real mums and, for her sins, me – to set the recent changes to the maternity and paternity regulations in context. Although much of what I told Katie won’t make it to air, I went out of my way to emphasise a number of important points about the current maternity arrangements:
- 29% of mothers with kids under five years work full-time
- 30,000 women lose their jobs each year as a result of pregnancy
- Average annual cost of childcare for children under five years is £5k
- Parents in the UK spend, on average, a third of their take-home pay on childcare – the highest percentage in the OECD
- Childcare costs have risen by 5% in the last year, while average earnings have increased by 2%
- Childcare workers are among the lowest paid workers in the UK and they are predominantly women (a salary of £9k - £10k is not uncommon)
So – childcare costs are high yet the wages childcare workers receive are very low. In effect, one group of women who either want or need to work are systematically suppressing the earnings of another group of women being forced to sacrifice career and pay progression.
The key issue is choice. Some women want to spend time with their children and be full-time mums. Their choice, of course, partly depends on economics. Others are driven by career ambition and are happy to return to work quickly. These mums, however, need to be able to afford childcare or rely on their extended families to do this. My guess is that, for some working mums, the new Paternity Leave arrangements might prove attractive, with fathers now entitled to six months leave within the first year if the mother goes back to work full-time. However, it remains to be seen just how many fathers feel able to take up this new employment right.
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